An Evening With Robert Ellis
The Orange Show
November 11, 2016
Moments before his set at The Orange Show was about to begin on Friday night, Robert Ellis was running out the front door and down the street. His anxiety had just kicked into overdrive, and his bandmates were desperately trying to comfort him. "If you have to throw up, just go ahead and do it!", said bassist Geoffrey Muller. "Nobody's gonna judge you..."
Lucky for us at the sold-out show in Houston's most unique venue, Ellis was able to shake off those pre-show jitters and provide two hours of his supremely heartfelt, sometimes dreamy, but always emotional mix of rock, folk, country and Americana.
"Gosh! This is beautiful!" proclaimed Robert after the first few songs, including "Perfect Strangers" and "Drivin'" from his latest self titled album. It was a lovely, clear, cool but not cold November night under the stars of the roofless venue which is by his own admission his favorite stage. "Its not really a museum because there's not a bunch of docents in jackets walking around everywhere," he described. "Its more like a monument made up of tractor parts!"
That definitely is an apt description of this spot in Southeast Houston, which makes it a perfectly wacky and amazing space to catch a show. Friday was no exception either, with Ellis shining at its epicenter as the star was all know and love. His blue cowboy suit was adorned with a spaceman and rockets and other celestial objects, representing both his beloved Space City as well as the fantastical feelings one experiences when listening to his catalogue of ballads.
"If I forget the words, will you still like me?", Ellis asked, still a bit shaken from his bout of nerves. Someone in the crowd shouted, "You're home! And you're awesome!", to which the audience applauded in agreement. Yes, there were a few stumbles during the show, but that only made it better, it seems. There was no visible set list, and Ellis even took a few requests from his fans, which were certainly well-received.
He dropped a few tracks from The Lights From The Chemical Plant, including "Pride" and "Good Intentions." With his best friends Kelly Doyle and Geoffrey Muller behind him, every track sounded tight and determined, with the right amount of grittiness and sweetness to accompany Ellis's naturally smooth, pronounced voice.
A highlight of the night was Ellis's tribute to the recently deceased Leonard Cohen. "I've been drinking lots of tequila in his honor since I found out he passed" he confessed. "That might also be why I've been feeling sick lately." He regretted that we are losing some of the best poets in the world every day. He then played a cover of "Is This What You Wanted," whose lyrics have almost certainly inspired Ellis's own writings.
And is this what you wanted,
To live in a house that is haunted,
By the ghost of you and me?
If I didn't know that was Leonard Cohen, I could have sworn it was Robert Ellis.
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Before the last song of the night ("California"), Robert took a minute to let everyone know how much the events of the week have affected him deeply. "I'd like to express my love to all my friends in the LGBTQ community, many who are having such a hard time right now," he said. "I'm genuinely sorry about everything that's happened." He didn't expressly say it, but I assume he was referring to the election of the new president, and what that may mean for the future of this country.
Ellis will leave on a European tour shortly, to which an audience member shouted, "PLEASE COME BACK!"
That's the thing about Robert Ellis and his music...Once you listen to it, it will always be with you.
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.